Tips from our Dallas Stairlifts Expert

Guest blogger: Gordon Raney, Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and owner of 101 Mobility of Dallas, Ft. Worth, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Little Rock. Below, Gordon shares his experiences with selling mobility equipment and offers some tips for customers looking to purchase a stair lift.

At 101 Mobility, we regularly receive calls from individuals who purchased a stair lift online and now find themselves in a situation in which they can’t get it installed or maybe the lift has malfunctioned and they can’t locate anyone to service it. In many cases, the perceived savings on the front end of the transaction is more than negated by the increased hassle of constant repairs or complete replacement of the lift once they find out, unfortunately, no one will service that particular brand and the brand has no local service or support once the initial transaction is complete.

To avoid any hassle, keep these 8 tips in mind when picking a stair lift and a stair lift company to meet your mobility challenges:

1. Know the brands.
Not all brands are created equal. Similar to purchasing cars, stair lifts come in many different brands, many options, and at many different price points. Visit the specific brand’s website to understand the product and locate reputable dealers in your area. Once you have identified a brand, it is extremely important to read independent reviews and the various consumer publications that discuss the pros and cons of your desired brand. This process should eliminate a good portion of the “un-reputable” brands on the market. For example, stair lift brands that we trust and sell in our own 101 Mobility store locations include Bruno, Harmar, and Handicare. Over time, these brands have proven very reliable and provide an excellent value in the market.

2. Know the dealer.
Becoming a dealer for some stair lift brands is as simple as completing a dealer application form at the time they place their first product order. Don’t be afraid to ask a dealer where they are located, if they have customer references, and if they are properly experienced, licensed, and/or insured to install stair lifts. Review services such as Yelp and Angie’s List are great places to read about potential contractors and dealers that you may hire. Unfortunately, we see a lot of unqualified “handy men” purchasing their first stair lifts online and then passing themselves off as dealers to their customers.

chairlift3. The dealer should be properly certified to perform your stair lift installation.
Reputable stair lift brands come with a training program that certifies the dealer to install and maintenance that particular brand. These manufacturers will only sell products to their certified dealers. If the installing company does not have these certifications, then the product warranty can be voided immediately. You also do not want a potential dealer practicing their very first installation on your staircase. Some dealers are even contracting out their installations to third party groups and a revolving door of “handy men.” This often means your installer has little experience and the dealer is not interested in servicing the lift later should that be necessary. Be sure you know exactly who will be performing your installation, if they are full time employees or contractors, and if they are certified to do so.

4. Make sure the dealer understands staircases, including (most importantly!) your own.
All staircases are different, even those that are built by the same builder using the exact same specifications. The nuances of your staircase and the proper evaluation on the front end will ensure you get the best fitting and safest stair lift possible. The rail overhangs at the top and bottom of the staircase, proper clear width between any wall obstructions, height differences related to a specific stair tread (every staircase has them), and flooring surfaces all play heavily into getting the right installation. Don’t trust a dealer who has a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to stair lifts. Certain manufactures make better lifts for certain applications. We sell multiple brands for this exact reason. 101 Mobility’s team of factory certified service technicians conduct a full staircase evaluation and take specific measurements to ensure a job well done. Be hesitant of dealers in your home who are overly pushy on the sales side, but can’t tell you how the exact unit you are discussing will lay out on your staircase.

5. Make sure the dealer understands your specific needs.
Our customers rely on us to understand their mobility issues and constraints in order to guide them to the right stair lift product. We not only want to think about their needs today, but also 5 years from now. A dealer who won’t come to your home to meet with you is someone who is not going to understand the real situation, challenges, and goals. There are numerous stair lift features and options that can be added to a stair lift to meet nearly any mobility need, but a proper evaluation must be done by the dealer to know these concerns.

stair lift6. Understand the warranty and future maintenance of your stair lift.
Some manufactures have very limited, short-term warranties and others have robust, long-term warranties. Be sure you know where you stand. The warranty is only as good as the manufacturer and the dealer who stand behind it. A 10-year warranty from a fly-by-night company has no value. I was recently amazed when speaking with a customer of ours who had been shopping around and getting different quotes. She found it odd that we had such lengthy manufacturing warranties and a service warranty as well. It seems the previous dealer that she had spoken with had told her that his product doesn’t need a warranty because “it is that good.” This customer believed that salesman until I was able to explain the real value of warranties and why good companies offer them. On the other hand, a “lifetime” warranty is only valuable if the company honors it and makes it easy to manage. If not, it’s simply a sales gimmick.

When your stair lift malfunctions or stops working, you will be looking for someone to service that lift. Buying off-brands and cheap foreign stair lifts increases the likelihood that you will not be able to find a maintenance professional. Most local and reputable dealers will not work on certain brands, and even if they did try to repair the lift, there is a chance they would not be able to get the parts needed for the repairs. At the time of purchase, make sure to ask who performs the maintenance work on the lift you are considering. There are dealers out there who only sell lifts but have no intention of ever providing maintenance for them. Unfortunately, this even applies to some of the big box, well-advertised brands. Again, do your research and read your consumer reviews regarding warranties and service after installation!

mitch, servicecurved-stair-lift

7. Don’t be fooled by television commercials.
Some consumers assume that being on television is a sign of a great company. Spending a bunch of money on commercials does not make the product or service of that product any better. Many of the better stair lift manufacturers do no television advertising whatsoever. Instead, they rely on reputation and word of mouth referrals. Would you rather have a manufacturer who spends heavily on television commercials, or a manufacturer who spends money on building a strong dealer network of trusted professionals providing full service stair lift installations and maintenance?

8. Know where your stair lift is made.
There is something to be said about putting Americans to work and building top quality stair lifts right here in the United States. While there are some good foreign stair lifts being produced (mostly in European countries), we are fortunate enough to have many of the top stair lift brands such as Bruno and Harmar produced domestically. If this is something that matters to you, then please look for those brands that proudly display the “Made in the USA” logos. From a dealer’s standpoint, it certainly makes it easier to find and get replacement parts from American-made stair lifts rather than foreign versions.

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Buying a stair lift is a significant investment in one’s independence and ability to continue living safely at home. These decisions should not be taken lightly without properly educating yourself about the options and differences amongst brands and dealers. The factory trained service technicians at any of the 101 Mobility locations will gladly help you navigate these decisions.

At 101 Mobility, we are locally owned. Our teams will meet with you and your family one-on-one to determine which style and brand of stair lift will best suit your needs and budget. Our technicians are full-time employees, trained and certified in the brands we sell, install, and service. And more importantly, we are with you for the long haul! In addition to the manufacturer’s product warranty, we provide a service and labor warranty on every lift we install. Furthermore, should you need any stair lift service, our local service team will be there to assist you.

Click here to find your local 101 Mobility!

Check back for more aging in place advice from CAPS and owner of 101 Mobility of Dallas Gordon Raney.

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Comments (24)

  1. Jeff Curtis  January 12, 2016

    My mother is in need of a chair lift, and I have no idea where to start. Thanks for the information, I will have to go make sure to know the stair case, I know it does have an interesting handrail. I’m glad I read this so I can better understand how to communicate what I need to a dealer.

  2. Jake White  November 4, 2015

    My grandmother uses a wheelchair now, and I’m trying to figure out a way to help her get to her basement if she ever needs to. I’m glad that I read this article, and it seems beneficial to make sure that a potential dealer for stair lift installations is certified to perform one. I will be sure to check on that before I hire someone to go install one. Thanks for sharing this information with me!

  3. Wendy Cartright  October 19, 2015

    This is a great post about picking the right stair lift company. I think it is so important for the company to understand the specific needs of the customer. That will definitely benefit the customer the most in the long run. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Veronica Marks  October 16, 2015

    Thanks for the tips on how to know if a dealer is actually reputable or not. I didn’t know that someone could just buy a chair lift system and call themselves a dealer. I will definitely check online sources and ask questions when I’m ready to buy my chair lift!

  5. Bryce Trout  October 15, 2015

    My parents are getting older and instead of moving them out of their beautiful home, I have decided to get them a stair lift. I really liked your tip about making sure the dealer understands my stair case. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to buy a product only to not be able to use it because it was installed incorrectly. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Brian Havens  October 16, 2015

      Thanks for reading, Bryce!

  6. Joel  October 14, 2015

    Thanks for the tips about what to look for in a lift company. You’re absolutely right about commercials not necessarily making a great product. I know plenty of great contractors who didn’t have TV commercials. A friend of mine is actually one of them. I’ll have to show him this article. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Rose Nickelson  October 13, 2015

    My parents are going to need a stair lift very soon. However, I don’t know too much about them and that is making looking for one hard. I liked your tip about knowing where the lift is made and how that can help you make a decision.

  8. Zach Thalman  October 1, 2015

    those stair lifts are really convenient for people who have trouble going up and down the stairs. I think it would be great to have something like that if I were not able to the different levels of the house. I would be a little worried about how they work and if they are able to be repaired if something goes wrong.

  9. Anita Mas  September 25, 2015

    Having someone experienced install a chair lift is a big deal to me. I want it to be safe to use and for it to not damage our staircase. We will have to make sure that they are certified to install it themselves so that we can have it serviced later. It pays to do your research.

  10. Nora Moore  September 9, 2015

    That’s true that all brands aren’t created equal for most things. I’ll have to do some research into these stair lifts. My dad has had a hard time with stairs for the last couple of years, but recently he broke his foot. I bet he would like one of these lifts.

  11. Chris White  August 26, 2015

    Knowing these eight essential tips for buying a stair lift before I bought one for my grandpa would have been really nice. Then I wouldn’t have struggled so much to find one that was perfect for his home and him as well. There was a lot more that went into buying a stair lift than I thought too. So that added more to things from the get go as well. Just glad that I could get him a chair lift to help him with getting up and down the stairs at his place easier.

    1. Brian Havens  August 27, 2015

      We’re sorry you didn’t know this information beforehand, Chris. But we are glad to hear the stair lift helped your grandpa get around easier!
      The best thing we can do is try to spread the word about these tips to friends and family who might be interested. There’s definitely a lot to consider when buying a stairlift; so it’s always best to ask an expert or even ask someone who’s been through the process (such as yourself).
      Thanks for reading!

  12. Natalie Darcy  August 25, 2015

    I think that it would be really important for your dealer to understand your particular staircase like you described. A stair lift like this would be pointless if it didn’t work very well according your your own home. Thank you for your detailed information on buying something like this. I will definitely keep this in mind when I contact a dealer!

  13. Chase Wilson  August 24, 2015

    Interesting! I had no idea that there could be so much variation in how staircases were made! Shows how much I know! I have been thinking about getting a lift installed for my grandpa. He isn’t very old, but just can’t really use his legs all that well anymore. Kind of a bummer, but he’s got a great attitude about it! How much does a one story lift generally cost?

  14. Skylar Mitchell  August 19, 2015

    These are all really great suggestions for buying a good stair lift. My grandfather needs to get a stair lift, but I want to be sure that he gets one. It sounds like the best thing to do overall is do research on just about everything, from the dealer that you choose to the different brands of lifts available. That way, I think we will be able to make a more educated decision and know what we are looking for. Thank you for the great suggestions!

  15. Ethel  August 11, 2015

    My grandparents both have a hard time with stairs and have been considering a stair lift. I was wondering what I should be looking for when I help them shop around. Knowing that, like the article mentions, there are different brand and dealerships with different options, is a great thing to keep in mind. Remembering these tips will help us make a purchase.

  16. Fred Summers  August 10, 2015

    Thanks for sharing these tips. I like that you focus the warranty and future maintenance of the stair lift. I think that making sure that you know what problems to look out for are important. It’s important to know what the system is going to cost after the initial purchase.

    1. Brian Havens  August 11, 2015

      No problem, Fred! It’s important for users to know that once they purchase a stair lift, it also needs to be maintained to function properly.
      Thanks for reading!

  17. Megan  August 7, 2015

    This post helped me a ton! I’m trying to find a stair lift for my dad. After a lot of recent health complications, he’s had to get a wheelchair. My mom, unfortunately, isn’t in the picture anymore, so the poor guy needs all the help he can get. He lives in a two-story house, and he’ll be needing something to help him get up the stairs. I like tip number 7, about not getting caught up in what commercials say! It’s always important to do your research and make sure you’re getting a good quality product.
    Megan

  18. Sara Killinger  August 6, 2015

    My grandmother lives in a three-story house with quite a few stairs. As she has gotten older, it has progressively become significantly more difficult for her to walk up and down the stairs. We have considered purchasing a stair glide that we saw on television to help her with her problem. However, thanks to tip #7 that you provided, I now realize that I need to do more research before going with the model I saw on TV.

  19. Wilfredo Hernandez  July 23, 2015

    It’s amazing that technology today can help people to live as normally as possible. It would be difficult to get up stairs with an injury or disability, but thanks to stair lifts people can now go around their house with less difficulty. Not being fooled by TV commercials is a good tip.

    1. Brian Havens  July 24, 2015

      Technology sure has improved aging in place! With products such as stair lifts and platform lifts, people are able to live in their homes much longer these days.

  20. Terry Goldmen  April 3, 2015

    A lot of work seems to be needed to go into buying a chairlift. It’s good that you take your time with it though. You wouldn’t want to be on it if it breaks and you get thrown down the stairs.